Tales as Old as TimeAt my parent’s house, I have an entire shelf full of the books that I’ve kept since childhood. I have all the old suspects- Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Collected Fairy-Tales. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I can tell you right now that, even though the rest of my shelves are reserved for ‘adult’ books, they don’t look much different. Almost all I own are re-tellings and re-imagingings of those first stories that I heard- Wicked, The Looking Glass Wars, Alice in the Country of Hearts, Mirror, Mirror, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Beastly…need I go on? The only deviance from this pattern that I have would be Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, but even then that entire fantasy world is a satire of the stories we are told in this world. In fact, there is a specific quote of his that has stuck with me. In his novel, Witches Abroad, Pratchett directly satirizes fairy-tales (complete with a fairy godmother and glass slippers and everything). In it, he says: “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.”
This is something that I have come to believe. Why else would we be so interested in hearing the same stories over and over again? Plato, in The Republic, laid out the idea of the ‘noble lie’- things that, although not objectively true, are undeniably true in an experiential sense. Stories are like this- even in non-fiction, stories are told in ways that are less ‘true’ to a strict, scientific sense, and yet are ‘true’ in that they relate to a larger capital-t Truth in our own experiences. In some instances, this can even translate into the experience of giving us a truth, by presenting in a fictional manner that speaks to our experiences.
I’ve talked before about the power that fiction has the building of how women see themselves, specifically those in abusive relationships. As writers, and as readers, we need to be asking ourselves- what have the stories we’ve read, or told, been saying? In my first novel, ‘Till the Last Petal Falls, I directly ask this question of one of my own favorite fairy-tales, Beauty and the Beast, and hope to continue the series in asking each of the ‘princess’ stories the same question. When an old story is re-told, it is most powerful not when the story is simply re-told in a different setting- but when the story has a new light shone on it, revealing things about it that could have previously been overlooked. The fact that there are so many different ways to take these kinds of beloved stories does not say that these stories are inundated with only bad morals or ‘lies’- but that they have so much potential to be a ‘noble’ lie, even in our own time, many years after they have been written, that many lights must be shone on it.
So don’t be ashamed to read, or re-write, some of your favorite stories. But be critical of what new ‘truths’ are being upheld in these newer versions of the classics. Today’s world needs new noble lies, not tired, plain ol’ lies. You are what you read.
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Jolee Bellissa is a 21 year old English major graduate living with her soon-to-be penniless inventor father, Moe, in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. All that's waiting for her in this 'bubble' of a town is a relentless suitor, Gage Aristade son of a rich accounting CEO and notable playboy, and a part-time job at the local Tattered Cover. When she sees a job listing for a literature and poetry tutor for a shut-in adult student in Aspen, room and board paid with a $1000 a month stipend, she figures she has nothing left to really lose. Adam Emile is a 33 year old eccentric artist, whose paintings' beauty is only matched by their disturbing choice of focus. Scarred by a horrific childhood and holed up in the mountains to keep from embarrassing his wealthy and famous father, he is beginning to lose all sense of reality. As a last resort, his personal nurse Chip has put out an ad on Craigslist, under the guise of tutoring, for a new friend for his patient. Will the beautiful young woman who answers the ad change Adam and break the curse of his mental depravity? Or will the secrets he harbors drag them both into madness? A dark twist on the beloved story of 'Beauty and the Beast.
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Elizabeth Rose is a twenty-something college student in Denver, Colorado, double majoring in Religious Studies and English. Though "'Till the Last Petal Falls" is her first full-length novel, she has been published in poetry since her junior year of high school. To date, she had appeared under her real name in over twenty journals, both in print and online.
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